Asimov’s Aurora

This is the third and final book in the iBook Asimov Robots spinoff series. The first two were Asimov’s Mirage and Asimov’s Chimera. Like the second one, this is better than the first and has a nice flow to the plot line. The story also is easier to believe than those used in previous spinoffs such as the Robot City and Robots and Aliens series. Weirdly, this is the first of the books in those spinoff series to really use sex as a plot element. The other books haven’t been celibate, but they also haven’t been as in your face as this one. That was probably the weakest part of the book, because those parts felt clumsy and extraneous.

[isbn: 0743444604]

Asimov’s Chimera

This is the second book in the iBooks spinoff series based on Asimov’s robot mysteries and the Robot City and Robots and Aliens series. Overall it fits into the Foundation Series acceptably. This book is a mystery much like Mark’s first Mirage.

I think overall this book is better written than Mirage, and is certainly better plotted than the Robot City and Robots and Aliens series. The book is believable and entertaining, without having to suspend too much disbelief. I enjoyed it, although the book isn’t important to the development of Foundation Series overall.

[isbn: 0743412974]

Asimov’s Mirage

If I was to name one flaw with the Robot City and Robots and Aliens series, it would have to be that they’re not very good. They’re lackluster, have difficult to believe plots, very simple structure, and are overall poorly thought through. Its a similar sensation to that I feel when I read the tie-in books written after Harrison’s Bill the Galactic Hero series. I feel a little sorry for the writers in later books in these series, because I suspect their hands were tied by the poor decisions of previous authors (similarly to the mess that Bear’s Foundation and Chaos had to dig that series out after Benford’s tragically terrible Foundation’s Fear).

Robot City and Robots and Aliens were disappointments because I read Roger MacBride Allen’s Caliban series before them, and Caliban is ok. Not awesome, but ok.

I say all of this as an introduction to Mirage. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve been wading through Asimov robot tie-ins from other authors for a while now, and some of them are not very good. That’s why finding Mirage was such a delight. Its well written, has a similar style as Asimov’s own writing, reuses characters and plot elements from previous tie-in books sufficiently to acknowledge their existence without getting bogged down by the poor decisions of those previous series. Its an engaging read, and I’m glad I stuck through these various series long enough to find it.

My only complaint with this book is that the epilogue is confusing and doesn’t align with my understanding of the end of the story.

[isbn: 0743475232]

Foundation’s Triumph

This book is pretty good. I’d say its the best of the three Second Foundation Trilogy books in fact. Unfortunately, you need to read the other two in order for this one to make any sense, which is a shame because the first one sucked, and the second one was ok.

A lot of loose ends get cleaned up in this book. Why did Earth get abandoned? Why did everyone forget their history? Why is Trantor built much like the cities in the Naked Sun? Why are there all those habitable worlds for the galactic empire to reside on? It seems odd that there would be 25 million habitable worlds out there. There are other examples as well, but I wont bore you with them all.

Another good bit of this book is the time line of all Asimov Foundation stories at the back of the book. I am sure it would have been useful to know about that earlier.

[isbn: 0061056391]

Isaac Asimov’s Utopia

Utopia is the third and final Asimov universe book from Allen. It centers around an attempt to accellerate the terraforming of a planet by drastic measures which drive third law robots wild… The measures are so drastic that they endanger humans, whilst protecting a large number of humans. Unfortunately three law robots have trouble seeing the difference between the two.

I don’t think this book is as well written as the earlier two Allen books (Caliban and Inferno) and therefore not as good as the Asimov books set in the universe. It was however reasonably engaging and I’m not offended that I spent time and money on it. An ok book, but nothing special basically.

Isaac Asimov's Utopia Book Cover Isaac Asimov's Utopia
Roger MacBride Allen
Fiction
Ace Books
March 1, 1999
368

The world of Inferno will soon be uninhabitable unless a daring plan is enacted--drop a comet to create new rivers that would save the planet but could also destroy Inferno

Isaac Asimov’s Inferno

Inferno is the second Asimov universe book written by Roger MacBride Allen. Much like Asimov’s Robots and Empire and Caliban, its what I will call an “issue book”. In Robots and Empire the issue at hand was that having a long life results in risk adversity and therefore the stagnation of society as a whole. In Caliban the issue was the over protection of humans by robots, and the ultimately corrupting nature of living in a society built on slavery (even of machines), as well as stagnation caused by the risk adversity of the robots themselves. In this second Allen book, the issue is the exploitation of the “new law” robots who ultimately become the new slaves in return for a chance at freedom later. This exploitation is a criminal offence, so of course they end up with a society in which pretty much everyone has dirty hands of some form.

Overall this was a good read, and probably a better book than Inferno. I certainly found it easier to read and more enjoyable. I read the majority of the book on a single set of flights between the US and Australia because it was such a good read.

Its interesting that the Amazon reviews for this book are mostly negative, and I can see the point they’re trying to make. There are certainly opportunities for Prospero’s psychology and the overall political situation created by the massive disruption of the society to be explored more. Additionally, the murder mystery is resolved very rapidly at the end of the book after crawling progress during the majority of the book. Then again, that’s just like Caves of Steel and Naked Sun, which both are resolved rapidly at the end of the book and gloss over issues which aren’t core to the story. I guess you can chose to tell a story many different ways, and just because Allen didn’t chose to tell it the way that the Amazon reviewers thought he should doesn’t make his choice incorrect.

Isaac Asimov's Inferno Book Cover Isaac Asimov's Inferno
Roger MacBride Allen
Fiction
March 1, 1998
320

A second work in a trilogy that examines Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics finds Caliban, the only robot without guilt or conscience, suspected in the murder of a politician and challenged to lead the New Law robots in a rebellion that threatens humanity. Reprint.

Isaac Asimov’s Caliban

This is a “robot mystery” in the style of Asimov, but actually written by Roger MacBride Allen. Wikipedia assures me that Asimov approved the outline for this book, as well as the other two by Roger:

“Shortly before his death in 1992, Asimov approved an outline for three novels (Caliban, Inferno, Utopia) by Roger MacBride Allen, set between Robots and Empire and the Empire series, telling the story of the terraforming of the Spacer world Inferno, and about the robot revolution started by creating a “No Law” Robot, and then New Law Robots.”

Roger is an interesting author, and appears to have written quite a few books, with a strong tendency for basing them in other author’s universes. Its interesting to meet an author who is so seemingly willing to base his work on that of others.

This book didn’t strike me as well written as Asimov’s, but that’s a pretty high bar to meet. It should be noted that Amazon reviews disagree with me on this point. Its rendition is certainly competent though, and the story is a good one.

Isaac Asimov's Caliban Book Cover Isaac Asimov's Caliban
Roger MacBride Allen, Isaac Asimov,
Fiction
1997
312

When an experiment with a new type of robot brain goes awry, the result is the creation of Caliban, a conscienceless robot that is not monitored by the Three Laws of Robotics that keep humans safe. Reprint.